Summer is the season of faculty development programmes. Such programmes are necessary because the most important factor that determines students’ achievement is the competence of faculty. Unfortunately, a shortage of competent faculty is also the most important factor that ails higher education in India.
A teacher can induce interest for her subject among her students and make them lifelong learners. She can also make the learning process so boring and painful that the student feels alienated and develop contempt for learning.
There are some attributes of a good teacher that are universal in nature. A couple of years back, Centre for Forecasting and Research, or C-fore, did a survey among schoolchildren (classes VIII to XII) in the metros. The prime objective of the survey was to find the attributes that they value the most in a teacher (see table).
Of all the attributes, classroom management skills is one area where otherwise good teachers flounder. How well a teacher manages the classroom is the primary determinant of how well the students will learn. There are two important characteristics of a well-managed classroom: First, there is maximum utilization of time in productive activities, and second, all students are active participants in the learning process.
Also Read Premchand Palety’s earlier columns
For optimum utilization of time, the teacher should be well prepared, as should the students. In the conventional lecture method, the teacher does most of the work and the students are a passive audience. This results in very little learning in class. If students are actively involved in the topic of learning by any means such as solving a case or doing a project or enacting a role, it greatly helps in their learning. Moreover, if there are no set procedures and routines, there is lot of wastage of time in organizing and explaining each activity every time, for recurring activities.
Also see Ideal Faculty (Graphic)
When I was doing my management programme, I was fortunate to get a few good teachers. They had some common traits. Besides creating interest for their subject, they were good in classroom management and maintained time and content discipline. At the start of the course, they would explain the pedagogy, evaluation procedure and conduct rules to be followed, and also how students were going to gain in terms of knowledge and skills. They distributed course outline booklets that explained in detail what students are expected to read before they enter the classroom. Since every student was evaluated for class participation, most of the time students would enter the classroom well prepared.
Besides the case method, they would also use other methods of teaching such as simulation exercises and role-playing that made the process of learning experiential. The evaluation was continuous; we had a surprise test once a week. They were voracious readers of books and journals and would come to the class fully prepared with PowerPoint presentations and even short films. We respected them for their punctuality. Students who would be late by even a few minutes wouldn’t be allowed to sit in the class. The time distribution of their typical class is given in the table.
I will write more about the attributes of good teacher in my next column.
Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting & Research (C-fore) in New Delhi, from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint